Tag Archives: Thunder Bay

SIU Investigates Death of Man During Police Call in Thunder Bay (April 2, 2018)

The Special Investigations Unit (SIU), the agency that examines cases of police harm to civilians in Ontario is investigating the death of a 62-year-old man in Thunder Bay, Ontario during a police call in the morning of April 2, 2018. According to the SIU, police were called to a dispute at an apartment building shortly after 7:30 AM. Some time thereafter a man was found on the ground below a third floor apartment. The man, who has not been identified, was pronounced dead in hospital. The SIU has assigned two investigators and two forensic investigators to examine the case.

Victim of Thunder Bay Police Identified as Marlon “Roland” Jerry McKay, 50-Year-Old Indigenous Man

The Thunder Bay police have garnered much notoriety recently over concerns of widespread racism on the force against Indigenous people in the area. Now the 50-year-old man who died in his cell while in custody of Thunder Bay police has been identified as Marlon “Roland” Jerry McKay. He died on July 19, 2017, after being arrested and detained for as yet unstated reasons. The victim’s family has confirmed that McKay, of the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) First Nation 600 kilometers north of Thunder Bay, was in the city for medical reasons. Paramedics supposedly cleared him on health grounds before he was taken by police. The family has apparently been told by the coroner that McKay did not die of a heart attack. The Special Investigations Unit is examining the case.

50-Year-Old Man Dies in Custody in Thunder Bay (July 19, 2017)

The Special Investigations Unit (SIU), the agency that investigates police harm to civilians in Ontario, is examining the death of a 50-year-old man who was held at a police station in Thunder Bay, Ontario, on July 19, 2017. According to the SIU, police and paramedics attended an address on Fort William Road around 8 PM the evening before. After being cleared medically by paramedics, the man was taken by police to the police station and placed in a cell. The SIU reports that a bit after midnight, the man was found in his cell not breathing. He was taken to hospital by paramedics and was pronounced dead there. Thunder Bay police have garnered much negative attention recently for concerns about widespread racism within the force in relation to treatment of Indigenous residents in the area.

Inquest Video: Killer Cops Chris Carson and Troy Sousa Stand on Romeo Wesley’s Neck and Back after He is Pepper Sprayed

Romeo Wesley, a 34-year-old Indigenous man of Cat Lake First Nation was killed by police on September 9, 2010, while in police custody at the Cat Lake nursing station. Two Nishnawbe-Aski police officers, Constable Troy Sousa and Constable Chris Carson, pepper sprayed Wesley, beat him with a baton, handcuffed him, and then stepped on his neck and back with their boots after he was face down on the ground and under their control.

This stunning violence is captured in 45 minutes of security video footage from the Health Canada nursing station where Wesley was killed and was shown during the inquest into Wesley’s killing which has finally gotten under way in July 2017. The video shows that several minutes passed from the time that Wesley stopped moving before anyone checked his vital signs. Instead, police took photos of the subdued man and a nurse mopped the floor around him. Dr. Harriet Lennox, the doctor on duty that night, testified that the pepper spray used by police in the confined space made it difficult for the nurses to breathe.

Wesley had gone to the nursing station,  the community’s only health facility, three times over the course of two days, trying to get help for a variety of problems including vision troubles and problems breathing. Instead of help he was killed.

Constable Chris Carson showed up at the scene wearing a t-shirt with a rifle on it. He later took off the shirt and was bare chested when he stood on Romeo Wesley’s neck. Dr. Lennox testified that she wondered when police would consider Wesley to be subdued enough that she could provide medical care, but assumed that they would have proper protocols in place.

The autopsy report of the killing blurred lines on the police violence inflicted on the man and his recurring health problems. It concluded that Wesley died from a combination of “chest compression with prone positional restraint” (police standing on his neck and back) and “severe alcohol withdrawal” which certainly did not naturally lead to being stomped by police boots.

Officers with the Nishnawbe-Aski Police Service receive the same training as other police officers in Ontario but they are not subject to Ontario’s Police Service Act and are not subject to the same oversight when people are harmed in their custody.

Cat Lake First Nation is about 400 kilometres north of Thunder Bay, Ontario. Approximately 500 people live there.

Acclaimed Artist Moses Amik Beaver Found Dead in Thunder Bay Jail

The family of influential artist Moses Amik Beaver is demanding answers after their loved one was found dead in his cell at the Thunder Bay Jail on Monday, February 13, 2017. The 59-year-old Beaver struggled with mental health issues and those close to him want to know why he was being held in jail and not a health care facility. Jails in Canada are too often used by the state as holding centers for Indigenous people in need of health care not punishment, even well after health care issues have been identified.

Local Indigenous leaders, including Johnny Yellowhead, chief of the Nibinamik (Summer Beaver) band in northwestern Ontario, where Moses Beaver’s family lived has called for a full public examination into Beaver’s death and what might have been done to help him. He could not say why Beaver was in custody but reported that he had expressed concern about depression and blackouts.

In a prepared statement released Thursday, February 16, 2017, Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler of the Nishnawbe Aski First Nation said:

“The sudden and unexplained death of Moses Beaver was devastating to his family and everyone in Nibinamik. For Moses to die under these circumstances is troubling on so many levels, especially as his death has not been officially acknowledged by those responsible for his care. We are doing everything possible to support Chief and Council and the family of Moses Beaver, and we will demand an investigation into the circumstances around his passing.” (quoted in Talaga and Edwards 2017b).

Said Chief Yellowhead: “Our dear friend Moses Beaver had struggled for many years with mental health issues but we do not understand why he was in custody or the circumstances that led to his death. It is clear that Moses needed professional help and a psychiatric assessment, and we demand to know why this didn’t happen” (quoted in Talaga and Edwards 2017b).

Thunder Bay art gallery owner JP Fraser remembers the artists whose work his gallery has featured: “He was a very gentle person. He was a very warm, welcoming, outgoing and caring man. His painting skills will be a great loss to the artistic community. And what a waste of a life. He should have had treatment” (quoted in Talaga and Edwards 2017a).

Fraser identified the Thunder Bay Jail as the wrong place to hold someone with mental illness (a fact clear to many except police it seems). In his view: “It is just not a place for someone with mental-health issues” (quoted in Talaga and Edwards 2017a). One issue that emerges in city after city in Canada is that mental health services and funding are insufficient while police budgets continue to increase even as crime rates drop.

This point is emphasized by Johnny Yellowhead: “I wish there was better health care. He wanted to get better. He asked me to help” (quoted in Talaga and Edwards 2017a).

Thunder Bay Police and jail officials have refused to comment on either why Beaver was being held in custody or on the circumstances of his death. A spokesperson for the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services confirmed that there was a death in the jail on Monday but would not say more.

The Thunder Bay Jail is already quite notorious in the Canadian context. It is the very facility where Indigenous youth Adam Capay (23) was held in solitary confinement for more than four years before public pressure pushed provincial authorities to change his conditions.

Moses Amik Beaver painted in the vivid Woodlands style associated with Ojibwe artist Norval Morrisseau. He was well known for his depictions of spirits and animals, painted in vivid colors and outlined in black. He was also very much appreciated for his work with children in local schools.


Further Reading

Talaga, Tanya and Peter Edwards. 2017a. “First Nations Artist Dies in Thunder Bay Jail and Days Later Grieving Sister Killed in Car Crash.” Toronto Star. February 15. https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2017/02/15/first-nations-artist-dies-in-thunder-bay-jail.html

Talaga, Tanya and Peter Edwards. 2017b. “First Nations Leaders Demand Investigation into Moses Amik Beaver’s Death.” Toronto Star. February 16.   https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2017/02/16/collision-kills-sister-of-first-nations-artist-moses-amik-beaver.html